11/16/2009 12:00AM

Maker starts slow at Churchill meet

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Mike Maker has 1 win with 19 starters at the fall Churchill meet.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - What a difference a year makes.

Last fall, when 26 dates were run at Churchill Downs, Mike Maker broke the record for wins by a trainer at a fall meet by sending out 31 winners.

This fall, with 11 of 21 days in the books, Maker is just 30 short of equaling his record, having won just once with 19 starters.

Of course, nobody is feeling sorry for Maker, who is fresh from winning the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with Furthest Land.

"And I'm not complaining," Maker said with a laugh.

There are mitigating circumstances to Maker's slow start.

"It's just been one of those things," said Maker, the former longtime D. Wayne Lukas assistant who went out on his own in 2003. "Last year, we had the right horses, the right races, the right distances, etc., etc. This year, we've been excluded out of a bunch of races or the races didn't go, and we've had a couple of photos that didn't go our way, a couple of thirds with trouble."

Maker, 40, has some 85 active runners under his care, including 14 in New York. With his horses having already banked nearly $4.1 million this year, surpassing his career high of $3.2 million set last year, Maker's arc continues to ascend. And he's not done yet for this year, especially at Churchill. His combined five starters on the Wednesday and Thursday cards look particularly live, and he says he has "quite a few" bullets still to fire before the meet ends Nov. 28.

"We're going to win some races before we leave out of here, or at least that's the plan," he said. "That's always the plan."

Borel wins four in a row Saturday

Jockey Calvin Borel was up to his old "Bo-rail" tricks again when sweeping four races in a row here Saturday. Borel kept his mount next to the inside rail in three of those victories and circled the field in the other.

One of the rail-skimming Borel wins came for his older brother, trainer Cecil Borel, aboard Cosmic, a 4-year-old colt who held off favored Harlem Rocker in an allowance at seven furlongs. Cosmic is by El Prado out of Heavenly Prize, a top filly for the Phipps Stable in the mid-1990s.

Just past the midpoint of the meet, Borel, whose spectacular 2009 includes victories in the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, and Preakness, has the lead atop a crowded jockeys' race with 12 winners. Julien Leparoux is next with 11, but he will miss three of the next 10 days: this coming Saturday to ride in California, and the last two days to ride in Japan.

Leparoux is followed atop the standings by Robby Albarado and Shaun Bridgmohan with 9, and Jon Court with 8. Five more riders have at least 6 wins.

By the way, this coming weekend at Churchill is all about Borel. Bobbleheads depicting his likeness are to be given away Saturday to the first 7,500 fans in attendance, and he will be the subject of a roast here Sunday, with proceeds going to the Kentucky Equine Humane Center. The roast is set for 5:30 to 9 p.m. in the Triple Crown Room, with tickets selling for $100. More information is available at (502) 638-3825.

Harlem Rocker eyeing Hal's Hope

Harlem Rocker, making his first start since being disqualified from first to second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last November, came out of his narrow defeat in good shape, according to Mike Dilger, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Harlem Rocker is nominated to the Nov. 27 Clark Handicap but will be pointed instead to the Hal's Hope on Jan. 3, opening day of the Gulfstream Park meet.

Dilger said the standout mare Unbridled Belle, who also is nominated to the Clark, will run instead against fillies and mares in the Nov. 26 Falls City Handicap.

Guam Typhoon perfect at Churchill

In winning a Saturday allowance, Guam Typhoon not only showed how much he likes the main track at Churchill but that he can overcome adversity, too. Even after breaking slowly under apprentice rider Freddie Lenclud and then encountering traffic for much of the trip, Guam Typhoon was able to get up in time despite racing down the stretch on his wrong lead.

"I told Freddie it might take the horse a while to switch leads but to just keep riding him," said trainer Ian Wilkes, adding with a laugh: "I was right. The horse switched leads - after the wire."

The victory gives Guam Typhoon a 4-for-4 record at Churchill. The 3-year-old Distorted Humor is 0 for 5 elsewhere. Wilkes said the colt probably would run next on the dirt at Gulfstream.

Acoma tops Cardinal probables

The lone stakes of the coming weekend at Churchill is the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap on Saturday. Acoma, winner of the Mint Julep here in the spring, is expected to be the 121-pound highweight in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Other probables for the Cardinal include Leamington, Lemon Chiffon, My Baby Baby, Polo Lounge, Social Queen, Tizfiz, and You Go West Girl, while several more are listed as possible by the Churchill racing office. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.

* The 10 days that remain at the fall meet include next Tuesday, Nov. 24. It will be the only Tuesday card of the meet.